Rui Costa won stage 19 of the Tour de France in to Le Grand Bornand, his second win in four days.
Costa spent the day in the break that went clear on the first climb then simply bided his time until the later stages when he made his one and only move. Sound familiar?
The win in Le Grand Bornand was almost a carbon copy of his win in Gap – knowing exactly when to attack and making it look easy. Even with four riders chasing him over the final 11km climb he slowly eked out his lead.
At the summit, with 13km to go, he was almost a minute clear of the hard working quartet and looked relaxed all the way down the final descent that by then had been rained on for the last 30 minutes.
Nine minutes further back the GC battle behind never really materialised as Saxo Tinkoff employed yet more puzzling tactics. Following yesterdays desperate attacks on the descent of the Col de Sarrene, the Danish team of Alberto Contador instead pushed the pace up the last two climbs today.
The question was, why? They looked like they were setting up an attack for Contador as one by one his team mates rode at the front before dropping off. But Contador never looked comfortable, and was in and out of the saddle, grimacing, as Roman Kreuziger rode the final few kilometres of the Col de la Croix Fry. In the end it was Joaquim Rodriguez, still in with a shout of the podium, who attacked.
Nairo Quintana was first on his wheel followed by Chris Froome and Contador. It was an immediate stalemate and the end of any excitement. With Contador, Quintana, Kreuziger and Rodriguez (second to fifth overall) seperated by just 47 seconds those four were always going to mark each other out of contention – a blessing for Froome and his Sky team mates who weathered yet another gruelling parcours today.
Kreuziger kept the pace high on the wet descent but there was no real impetus. Despite doubts over his descending, Chris Froome has proved over and over again that he has no problems going down hill, and Contador now knows this. The group reformed as Richie Porte, Andrew Talansky and others caught them up before the final kilometre.
Porte did one last turn on the front to ensure the group stayed together and coming in to the picturesque Alpine town it was a case of job done for Sky. There were 66.8km of climbing today, and the team never looked to be in trouble. “I’m relieved it’s out of the way, there wasn’t really much attacking but it was really tough out there.” Froome said.
Vive la France
Riblon’s heroics yesterday that bought the French their first stage of the race were followed by more from Pierre Rolland today. Europcar’s leader was in the break again, making a bid for the polka dot jersey and the stage win.
The stage proved too much as he faded badely on the Croix Fry, the king of the mountains classification is now in sight. Rolland took 52 points from a possible 75 over today’s five climbs and now sits one point behind Chris Froome in the KOM classification.
With six classified climbs on tomorrow’s stage Rolland has a great chance to win the jersey that he will wear for tomorrow’s stage, but will have to recover tonight. On the podium today to collect the combativity award he barely had the strength shake hands with the gathered dignitaries.
Tour de France 2013 stage 19: Bourg-d’Oisans – Le Grand Bornand 204.5km
1. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar 5-59-01hrs
2. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack +0.48
3. Jan Bakelants (Ger) RadioShack +1.44
4. Alexandre Genez (Fra) FDJ +1.52
5. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis +1.55
6. Bart de Clerq (Bel) Lotto-Belisol +1.58
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin +2.03
8. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale +2.05
9. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi +2.16
10. Ruben Plaza (Spa) Movistar +2.44
General classification after stage 19
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky 77-10-00hrs
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Tinkoff +5.11
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar +5.32
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo Tinkoff +5.44
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha +5.58
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin +8.58
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana +9.33
8. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis +12.33
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +14.56
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma QuickStep +16.08
Jan Bakelants (left) in the chase group
Riding through the storm: Rui Costa gets a soaking
Win number two for Costa in the 2013 Tour
Tour de France 2013: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index